My Cliff Notes of What I Say by Request Part II
So in part one of Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators, I talked about not so much what I say, but how I say it. We are now at the part where we must frame out the simple purpose of the Adoptee Rights legislation and why you are speaking to said legislator:
“What we would like to see is new legislation that will restore the adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. “
Yes, WHY CAN’T Adult Adoptees Get Their Birth Certificates?
“Why can’t they get their birth certificates? You mean adoptees don’t have birth certificates?”
“Well, they do. In fact, adopted people actually have two birth certificates! It’s just that the first one is sealed away by the state… see, when a child is born they are issued, as you know, a birth certificate by the state. Everyone gets that and it records the baby’s name, the name of its parents, time of birth and all that”
You are telling a story now, so they will have on their interested face. Keep going.
“Now, when a child is relinquished for adoption, the birth parents give up their rights and responsibilities to parent the child and the child is given to new parents who adopt it. When the adoption is finalized, the state issues a new birth certificate. The Original Birth Certificate, which we call the OBC, is then sealed away forever! Now, the new birth certificate is called the Amended Birth certificate, or the ABC, and it has the child’s new name on it and lists the adoptive parents as the parents. Which is fine when they are kids. They use that to get into school and little league and all that, but really (and I usually chuckle here like I am amused by the silliness of it all) it is a false legal document because the adoptive parents, are listed as ‘mother of birth’.”
“The thing is, the adoptee, even when they are grownups can never see their OBC again! Adult adoptees in the United States are the ONLY classification of people who are denied the right to access their legal documentation! And that really, is the definition of discrimination as the state is treating one class of people different that another based on the circumstances for which they were born.”
Again, I look horrified and shocked. I speak in a very incredulous tone. Now at this point, being that this particular legislator is completely unaware, the favored response is also to looked shocked and maybe say how insane that is.
Often they will ask ” Well, why do they do that?” So we explain.
“Well, the laws are very old. It used to be that if a child was born to an unmarried mother, then the actual birth certificate would be stamped it a big red “Illegitimate” on it, so originally the laws issues a new birth certificate to avoid the stigma of that. Of course, no one does that anymore! And what we know about adoption and how adoption is practices is very different from when these laws were put on the books. I am sure you know how most adoptions now are not secrets and people aren’t all embarrassed because they choose to adopt! Look at Hollywood. (chuckle) Everyone adopts! Most are open adoptions and just everything is different, but these antiquated laws really just need to be updated. “
At this point, hopefully everything that has been said is agreeable and they are shaking their heads yes. So we go for the action item.
“So what we are proposing is introducing ( or supporting) new legislation ( or support of HB X12345) that will restore an adult adoptee over the age of 18 to be allowed access to their Original birth Certificate just like every other citizen in the United States.”
Centering the Adoptee Rights Conversations on Civil Rights
Now as I smile, I see it sinking in and I get ready for the questions.
“Well why do they need it of they have another birth certificate?”
Now, I can go off into the possible needs of the OBC, but first I do want to frame out the issue more now that they know what the hell I am asking for and try to keep the issue centered on the simple fact that it is about civil rights… so I say:
“Well, at the most basic level it’s about civil rights and being treated equally. I mean why should we have special laws for people just because they happen to be adopted when they were born? That’s just not right.”
“So for many adoptees, they want to right to have this piece of paper because it is theirs.. it’s their original identity. It has their name on it. It’s their documentation and why shouldn’t they be allowed to have it?”
This becomes a nice place to bring up the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sometimes I bring up my own kids here, but usually I can go through most of the spiel without actually letting the legislator on to the fact that I am a birthmother. They assume I am an adoptee and I let them. Sometimes I wait until they say something really silly about birthmothers and then I let on. But here is a good place to bring it up. I have established that there is no shame or secrets in adoption, what better way to prove that point then by announcing proudly?
“I have four children. My oldest son was adopted when I was 19 and my other three I had after I was married. Now, I found him in 2004 and everything is great. He is happy . I am happy, but we can go hand and hand to the county clerk’s office and they will not give us the piece of paper with both our names on it! How come my one son is treated differently than his brothers and sister? They can get their birth certificates! It’s not his fault he was adopted. I choose that! And yet, the laws of the state of MA treat him differently? That’s unfair.”
So we have set the stage for civil rights and discrimination and equality for adoptees. Now we expand.
“So really, at the center of the adoptees access to the OBC, it is a civil rights issues, but it’s just so important and really affects so many things. The discrimination and the civil rights are like the center of the wheel and then it continues to spoke out, to affect people ‘s lives in so many different ways!”
“Genealogy is incredibly important to so many people. It’s one of this country’s top national hobbies, with Ancestry.com and that show.. have you seen ‘Who Do You Think You Are? It’s great. Everyone is tracing their family history. It’s a natural desire to want to know where you came from, your linage. There is nothing wrong with it and yet, we deny adoptees this? Why?”
“Its’ also human nature to want to know who you look like and where you get your talents from. There is a technically term for that a called Genetic Mirroring, but basically it’s being about to look in the mirror and seeing a familiar face. It’s a way that people form positive self esteem.”
“And we’re not talking about a handful of people here. It is estimated that close to 7 million adoptees are in the USA. ( good to estimate your states numbers) One in four humans are affected by adoption. And it’s not just the adoptees, but their children as well and their children’s children. I read someplace that by 2020, over half the family trees in the USA will be completely incorrect because of the misinformation hidden by past adoptions. That’s an awful loss for all of us! It’s a lost past that cannot be reclaimed by future generations unless we do something about fixing it right now.”
Many times legislators will ask about other states and what they are doing. Governments like to follow trends and keep up with the neighbors. So, knowing your states and how to offer up that information is good:
“Well, Alaska and Kansas never sealed their records. Successful legislation has been passed in Maine, Alabama, New Hampshire and Oregon. So all those states treat the adopted adult equally as the non adopted population. Then we have had legislation pass in, Rhode Island, though Rhode Island used age 25 rather than 18 ( but there is talk of moving the age lower since there are no issues at all.) Last year Washington State and Ohio had bills pass, though they are not perfect and do have a few provisions that leave some adoptees out like the bill that passed in Illinois a few years back. There is also pending legislation in New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. I have also hear that Louisianan is getting ready and Hawaii as well.”
Notice, I DO use them ALL. This point of the conversation is about numbers and trends, so we want to show that many states across the USA are moving towards openness and OBC access.
At some point you might want to think about going for the hard sell: See, legislators want to support legislation that goes through and makes them look good! So you “talk politics” in terms of their jobs:
- It’s really simple legislation. In fact, you don’t even have to write it, we have samples where you just have to change the bill numbers! ( Maine clean bill with no CPF)
- It’s supported across the adoption community: adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents all agree it’s best for the adoptees. So the community can really offer support with letter woriting and positive comments on articles. You look like a good guy!
- Furthermore, adoptee rights legislation has a positive fiscal impact to the state as you have untapped income coming in when adoptees file for their OBC and pay the fees
Now, the concept of “original identity” is kind of ambiguous for some people to grasp especially if they just take theirs for granted and probably never thought about it before. So we have to often bring in more concrete and touchable. Medical History….
Looking horrified again…
“Oh, and then there is all the medical information lost. We just didn’t know who important that was back in the day, but now…. We have so much more information about the importance of genetics, and testing and what runs in families. I mean, here we have the Surgeon General of the United States reminding us that the best thing we can do for our health is to obtain an adequate family medical history and then another government body won’t give the adoptees the tools needed to make that happen! It’s crazy. And that again, is not just about the person adopted, but their children will never know if cancer runs in their family or how to be preventative. And it also affects their health care and even insurance.”
MOST legislators will be in agreement here about the medical information. It’s kind of a no brainer, so we bring it home and make it personal. I go into story mode again.
“I know one adoptee and she had breast cancer and the insurance company DENIED her the genetic testing because she could not prove that breast cancer ran in her family. So here she is fighting for her life and she has three daughters, and she has to worry about whether she gave it to them! Thankfully, she was from Illinois and Il changed their laws and she was able to get her OBC and find her family. Her natural mother had already died from breasts cancer, which was sad, but once she knew, the insurance company approved of the generic tests!”
We both act horrified for a minute. It’s like bonding.
“And then, not being able to access the OBC can cause all sorts of legal issues. You know how “real ID ” and identity is in the news these days! (at election time I bring up voter rights if it is in the news!) Well.. we have had adoptees that have not been about to get driver’s licenses or had trouble getting passports.”
Wait for the why… and then explain.
“Oh well..when the new legal amended birth certificate is issued when the adoption is finalized. And that often happens months after the baby is born due to legalities and court dates and all that. So post 911, homeland security tightened everything down and they flag any birth certificate that is issued more than a year after the date of birth. And they don’t understand adoption OBC, they just know what they need and they are like “go get your original long form certificate” and the adoptee is like “I can’t get it, it’s sealed by the state”. It’s a mess. I have know people who couldn’t leave the countries for their jobs or family vacations. And this affects ALL adoptees.. even step parent and foster care adoptions!. So here we have the whole country trying to find homes for these children in foster care. And we finally get them in a forever family where they will be happy and cared for, but maybe they are 5 years old when they get their new birth certificate. The state turns around and says, ” Great you have a family, but now you can never to go to Paris! We legally intern a whole population to be hostages of the US.”
The passport issue was really big in Chicago in 2012. It’s real and tangible and they get it.
At this point, all the main facts have been discussed: Civil rights, discrimination, numbers affected, medical history, insurance, legalities etc. The discussion is so logical that many a legislator will then ask the next question which we need not avoid.
“So why isn’t this happening? What is the opposition?”
And we’ll handle THAT rebuttal in part III of Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 1
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 2
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 3
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 4
- What NOT to do When Talking about Adoptee Rights or How We Get Better Part V